Family, friends gather to pay tribute to Williams

Updated: January 6, 2007, 12:07 AM ET
Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Darrent Williams' family and friends gathered Friday to remember the charismatic Denver Broncos cornerback and former Oklahoma State standout who escaped the tough streets but never forgot his roots.

Thousands of mourners filed past Williams' copper-colored casket during a memorial service at the Great Commission Baptist Church on Friday night, where Pastor Douglas E. Brown will officiate funeral services Saturday.

"We are here tonight to remember the life of this son, brother, friend, Darrent 'Dee-Will' Williams," Brown said. "We are here to remember his life."

"If somebody just walked up and didn't know he got killed or passed or whatever, they would say, 'Aw, damn. Dee must be home.' Because this is what you would see. There'd be nothing but family and friends."
-- Monte Wayne, Williams' cousin

Williams was killed and two other passengers wounded when at least 14 shots were fired into the stretch Hummer that had just left a New Year's Eve party. Williams was struck once in the neck.

Denver police said Friday they arrested Willie Clark, 23, on a parole violation and will question him about Williams' slaying.

"We're not calling him a suspect at this time," police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. "I hope he is a valuable individual that will help assist us. I hope that he'll make a difference for us in solving this case."

In Fort Worth, people lined up at two microphones at the big church, which seats 2,500, plus another 800 in an overflow chapel, to tell Williams' family what he meant to them.

A man on a brown mustang trotted up and down the street in front of the church.

Reggie Bracey, wearing a cowboy hat, chaps and spurs and holding a giant Broncos flag aloft, said his son played football with Williams at O.D. Wyatt High School.

"I'm not good at the mushy stuff," Bracey said. "This is my way of saying I'm sorry."

As they entered the church a few miles from where Williams grew up, mourners viewed giant photographs of Williams, one of the NFL's most promising young defensive backs when he was killed early Monday in a stretch Hummer limousine following a New Year's Eve party in downtown Denver.

A Broncos helmet sat at the front of the church and Williams' white No. 27 jersey was draped over the altar. Hundreds of people wore replica jerseys, many of them signed by Williams.

Williams was dressed in a black pinstriped suit with an orange tie and white shirt. Viewers filed past his casket for an hour before a choir sang, "I'm Trading My Sorrow," and the preacher said the night was for supporting the family so that the funeral could be a celebration of Williams' life.

Before the visitation, dozens of family members and friends gathered at the house where he grew up in the Carter Park neighborhood of Fort Worth.

"If somebody just walked up and didn't know he got killed or passed or whatever, they would say, 'Aw, damn. Dee must be home,'" said cousin Monte Wayne, 25.

"Because this is what you would see. There'd be nothing but family and friends," Wayne said as he stood on the curb outside Williams' grandmother's house.

He pointed to the hard scrabble street and said that's where Williams first flashed his athletic skills that would make him a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2005 after a standout career at Oklahoma State.

The visitation at Great Commission Baptist Church was open to the public, as will be Saturday's funeral.

"I don't think it's going to hold everyone," said Carol Williams, an aunt of the Broncos player. "They say, 'Yeah, Dee must be home.' Play cards, play dominoes, fish fry, barbecue. Dee was just a grounded person, just so sweet."

The Broncos will fly to Fort Worth on Saturday for the funeral, where coach Mike Shanahan and owner Pat Bowlen are expected to be among the speakers. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Mike Haynes, the league's vice president of player development, also will attend the funeral.

The NFL announced Friday it would return a $15,000 fine levied against Williams for arguing with an official in a Nov. 19 game against San Diego. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the money would be turned over to the Broncos to return to Williams' family.

Williams was killed and two other passengers wounded when at least 14 shots were fired into the stretch Hummer that had just left a New Year's Eve party. Williams was struck once in the neck.

While family and friends mourned Williams in Forth Worth, police in Denver were interviewing people who were at a nightclub Williams visited New Year's Eve before he was killed.

Investigators have talked to "numerous people that could possibly be witnesses and people that definitely are witnesses, and we will continue to do so because we continue to receive information," Detective Virginia Quinones said Friday.

SUV
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiPolice were issued a warrant to search the 1988 Chevrolet Tahoe possibly connected to the shooting death of Darrent Williams.

Investigators also have obtained a warrant to search a 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe seized Thursday. Police believe the SUV, found in a remote neighborhood of snow-covered empty lots and industrial construction sites east of Denver, might have been used in the shooting. It had been partially spray-painted black, and the Tahoe's license plates also matched the one sought by investigators.

Police won't disclose whether they know the motive for the slaying but have said there was an altercation at the nightclub.

A person close to the investigation told The Associated Press the SUV is registered to Brian K. Hicks of Denver, who is jailed on unrelated drug and attempted murder charges. The person declined to be identified, because state law prohibits officials from identifying whom a vehicle is registered to.

Quinones would not comment whether Hicks had agreed to be interviewed or whether gang involvement was suspected in Williams' death.

Hicks, 28, has been jailed since Nov. 9 on a charge of possessing drugs with intent to distribute. He also is accused of shooting at a woman who was later killed a week before she was to testify against him.

Hicks was in custody the day of the shooting, but police want to know who was using the vehicle in the early morning hours Jan. 1.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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